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EveryBlock is a site owned by Comcast that collects and sorts local news data and hosts community conversation on a block-by-block level.
The site was launched in 2008 by Chicago-based journalist and developer Adrian Holovaty with a $1.1 million Knight News Challenge grant based on Holovaty’s 2005 map mashup experiment Chicagocrime.org. It initially covered New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, but now covers more than 15 U.S. cities. At its peak, EveryBlock had seven full-time staff members. Holovaty left the site in August 2012.
In August 2009, two months after its Knight grant expired, EveryBlock was bought by msnbc.com. The site was shut down abruptly in February 2013 by NBC, which had taken control of EveryBlock when NBC took full ownership of msnbc.com the previous year. NBC’s owner, Comcast, relaunched the site in January 2014 with a Chicago site. It added a Philadelphia site later that year.
EveryBlock was required to make its source code public as terms of its Knight grant. It released its source code in June 2009, at the end of its grant period, though the code has not been publicly updated. The quick acquisition by a for-profit company and the decision not to update the publicly available source code raised some questions about the appropriateness of the use of the Knight funds.
After its acquisition by msnbc.com, EveryBlock added local discussion boards, a partnership with the community fix-it site SeeClickFix, and a mobile version, as well as a simpler programming structure to make it easier to integrate into other news sites.
The site has been considered a leading practitioner of hyperlocal news and what is sometimes called “data journalism.” The site has also been criticized for offering data that was at times incomplete or without much context.
Video: A 2008 speech by Holovaty on EveryBlock and local data
Backfence was a network of user-driven hyperlocal news sites that launched in 2005 and closed in 2007. Backfence was founded in 2005 by Mark Potts and Susan DeFife with five staff members and two community sites in the Washington, D.C., area. It raised $3 million in local and national investment and eventually expanded to 13…